How to cope in the early days after losing a baby

cope in the early days after losing a baby

 

The first few days, weeks and months after each loss are the absolute worst.  You’re still physically recovering.  Your heart is broken.  All the plans you had for the next few months and years, through pregnancy and with a baby are gone.  You’re left with this great void of nothingness, and no way to fill it.

 

In those first few months after losing each baby I felt like I was underwater.  I could see all of the other people and hear what they were saying but it as almost like it was muffled for meaning.  I couldn’t connect with anyone or anything in the same way that I used to.

 

I no longer cared about plans we had to renovate the bathroom.  Things that felt like a big deal before, things that were important to me no longer mattered.

 

I found myself feeling ‘who cares about any of this when my baby is dead?’.

 

I used to worry about the size of my bum or how fat I thought I was… but afterwards – ‘who cares about any of that when my baby is dead’.

 

I used to worry about the being house a mess, or not having enough money to buy the new car we thought we needed or that my hair had started going grey.

 

But now?

 

Who cares about any of THAT when my baby is dead?

 

After our losses I found most of my life felt trivial and meaningless and I started questioning why any of it had mattered to me in the first place? It was like I’d woken up to a new way of seeing the world, one where everything was held up to the fact that my baby was dead and in contrast to THAT, it felt like nothing mattered.

 

At first this new perspective felt overwhelming. You can easily venture down into ‘why bother?’ territory and that can be a scary place to be.

 

I honestly think you need to allow yourself to move slowly through these feelings.

 

If you feel like doing nothing but watching netflix, then do exactly that. 

 

If you need to spend a few weeks moping in bed, or around the house, then do that.

 

If you want to throw yourself straight back into normal life, do that.

 

If you feel the desire to jump into something new as a distraction, then do that (although can I suggest not making any life-altering decisions at this point. New creative project or hobbies = good. Throwing away an entire career and going back to uni = maybe hold off until you’re out of the fresh grief stage for big decisions like this).

 

Ultimately though there are no rules to how you ‘should’ operate in the early days after you’ve lost a baby.

 

I found after each loss I needed to hermit myself for a little bit longer than the previous loss before I was ready to return to the world.  It was like each loss knocked me a little bit harder, and I needed more time to put the pieces back together before I could come back to regular life.

 

But in the early days after losing a baby there are some things I think you should try and do to make life a little easier.

 

How to cope in the early days after losing a baby

 

Look after your physical health

 

While it can be tempting to drown your sorrows in all the quick fixes, now is not the time to put your body under any more stress than it already is. Try to keep up with at least some good healthy habits, despite how you feel inside.  You will not feel like it at the time, but know that good nutrition, lots of water, comforting rituals to encourage sleep and regular movement will help your body to process the grief that is permeating from your heart, mind and your womb.  And trust me, when you start waking up from it all in another six months time, it’s going to be easier to feel like yourself if you haven’t let your physical health completely go.

 

Avoid Isolation

 

“Grief work cannot be done alone”

 

I don’t know why we do it, but we always assume that we are unique in our experiences.  So rather than admitting how we’re feeling we try to pretend that we’re ok. We pretend that we’ve got it all together, that we’re not suffering.

 

But we really do need to share our hurt in order to process our grief.  There is something about expressing ourselves and the way we feel that helps us to heal.  Storytelling has long been used as a way to heal from trauma.  Telling someone else what has happened to us helps us to understand it better, and when another person empathetically receives our story and reflects back our trauma it helps us to feel validated and valued and eventually able to move on from the pain of it all.

 

Make time for you.

 

I found after my losses I naturally wanted to do one of two things.  I either threw myself into life and made sure every moment was busy with social catch-ups, work and kids.

 

Or I wanted to hole up in my house, talk to no one and bury my head in books and Netflix (basically any reality that wasn’t my own).

 

Which option is healthier?  Well… same same really.

 

Both of my reactions are forms of distraction.  I was seeking anything other than having to actually deal with the pain of my grief.

 

If you don’t make time to deal with your thoughts and feelings about your loss, it is likely that your grief will lay dormant until something triggers it, and it will be as sharp and painful as if it happened just yesterday.

 

Create time each day to treat yourself with as much kindness as you can muster.  It starts with just doing things that make you feel good and giving yourself some space away from mental and physical distractions to process what has happened.

 

For me this time started with my happy list (a list of things I did just to make me happy), became journalling every morning first thing, meditation, yoga, counselling / intuitive work, walking by myself, sitting on the beach, attending and sharing at women’s circles and writing.

 

Don’t wallow, keep moving forward.

 

This perhaps may be counter intuitive to the previous point but I believe it’s a balance.  While constant busy-ness is unhelpful, if we don’t allow ourselves time to process and heal it, so too is falling down the wallow hole. (Pretty sure that is not a real thing but it describes perfectly where you end up after a loss, yes?)

 

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time for wallowing, for truly allowing yourself to do nothing but feel. But you also eventually need to create a focus for your day- something to keep you moving forward with life, even when you don’t feel like it. If you already have other children, they will be excellent at this. They will not allow you to wallow for long as their needs are completely oblivious to your grief.

 

If you don’t have other children and you feel like you may be spending too much time in self-pity you need to create something to keep forward momentum. Take up a creative project.  Follow an interest. Join a club.  Write your own happy list. Anything that keeps you moving in a positive direction.  Admittedly at first it might just feel like you’re ‘going through the motions’ but eventually you’ll notice that you will start to care more about these things and the positive emotions you used to feel about everyday life will return.

 

Forgive yourself daily.

 

Some days you will feel as if nothing has changed. You will feel normal and ok, like you can cope with life again. You may even forget the sadness for a little while. This may be immediately followed by feelings of guilt, as if you have somehow abandoned your baby by not feeling the grief of their loss in every moment. Forgive yourself for this. 

 

Other days you will fall apart. You will crash and burn and not know how to get out of the hole you’re currently buried in.  Life will feel too hard and not worth it. You will feel like no one understands.  Hold on tight on these days. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for falling apart.

 

Some days you will take out your anger and sadness on other people.  You might not even like who you are for a while.  Forgive yourself for this.

 

So they’re my tips for making it through the early days after the loss of a baby.

 

BUT.

 

And it’s a big BUT.

 

Basically your only concern in the early days really should be about looking after yourself and getting through the days.

 

There really is no SHOULD when it comes to grief.

 

There is no timeline for how long it should take.

 

There are no rules.

 

Though I know what it is like to be seeking help, any sort of relief from the pain and that’s what I hope these tips might help with, even if it’s just a little bit.

 

Bottom line. Look after yourself. Be kind to you. And know that you’re not alone.

 

Do you have any tips for how to cope in the early days of losing a baby? I’d love if you’d join the conversation in the comments. You never know who your tip might help.

One Response to “How to cope in the early days after losing a baby

  • I think the one thing I wished was that I’d not felt so guilty about things like turning down invites, blocking people out, or just holing myself away. I still find I do these things as grief is a part of my life now but I no longer feel guilty about being kind to myself and honouring what I need to do to get me through.

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